Most of my cats are not young, and Sizzle has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, so their heart health is especially important to me.
The problems with heart disease in cats are that there are often no symptoms until it's almost too late, and heart disease in cats is not often preventable.
Experts say the best form of prevention is yearly checkups (please pass on the "annual shots!" Your cat probably doesn't need them!). Your vet will listen for heart murmurs and other irregularities. And ask for a proBNP test, too. It's a blood test that can detect early heart disease.
Keeping Your Cat's Heart Healthy
- Reduce stress. Stress triggers all kinds of health problems. Your cat will be healthier and happier if you provide a lifestyle that's as stress-free as possible.
- Watch his weight. Obesity strains all the organs, including the heart. A high-quality all-wet-food diet is best, and it's possible to free feed wet food the way you do dry. If your cat really needs his crunchies, give him just enough to keep him happy and no more. And look for a grain-free brand that's as low carb as possible. Cats don't use carbohydrates efficiently, and it's the carbs in dry food that really pack on the pounds.
- Encourage exercise. If your cats stay inside, play with them with "wand" or "fishing pole" toys, and give them at least one tall, stable cat tree to climb. Or take them out on harnesses and leashes and go for walks together. Even indoor/outdoor cats need to be encouraged to get active. Sizzle's favorite form of exercise is walking down the stairs from our third floor condo to the base of a big bush, where he spends the day in a comfy pile of leaves watching the world go by. He and the other cats do enjoy going for walks with me though, and we do that every day.
- Check food ingredients. Most commercial cat foods contain the correct amount of taurine for heart health. But read your cat food labels to be sure. If you make your own food, be sure to follow a recipe that includes enough taurine.
- Treat hyperthyroidism and high blood pressure. Hyperthyroidism takes a toll on the heart and all the cat's other organs. But both hyper-t and high blood pressure can be easy to treat and are inexpensive if you get your cat's medicine from a human pharmacy instead of your vet.
- Add fish oil to your cats' food. It's an anti-inflammatory and helps with arthritis, heart health and more. Brands recommended by many vets include Welactin and Nordic Naturals.
- Know your breed. Some breeds, including Ragdolls, Persians, Maine Coons and American Shorthairs, are more prone to heart disease than others. Regular vet visits are especially important for these cats, and talk with the breeder before buying a kitten.
The Signs Of Heart Disease In Cats
- Difficult or open mouth breathing
- Persistent cough
- Fainting or collapsing
- Weakness or paralysis of the back legs
- Abdominal swelling or distention
- Depression or hiding
- Poor circulation. Look for cold extremities, bluish paw pads or nail beds, and grayish gums or tongue.
- Loss of appetite
- Less tolerance for exercise or winded after exercise
- Change in heart rate. You can use the stopwatch on your phone to monitor your cat's heart rate.
Our Happy Hearts
True, I was the one who rescued him from an unhappy living situation. But it was a talented and determined cardiologist who rescued him from what came very close to an unhappy ending when he went into sudden and completely unexpected congestive heart failure.
I'm grateful for every day I have with him and for every night that he presses his huge orange and white body against mine and purrs us both to sleep. His heart is happy, and that makes my heart happy, not just on Valentine's Day but on every day of the year.